BY LAUREN HENRY
The public workshop held Wednesday to discuss the town's strategy for the future, called Greeneville's "20/20 Vision," prompted feedback from many of the citizens in attendance.
The following comments are for each of the strategies identified in the 20/20 Vision: downtown revitalization, organizational effectiveness, a healthy Greeneville, prepared infrastructure, and keeping education in the forefront locally. (Please see related article on Page A-11.)
Robert Clark questioned what the focus of downtown revitalization will be. He brought up the example of Biltmore Village in Asheville, N.C., which is modeled on achieving a small-town feel but including a wide range of businesses.
Executive Director of Main Street: Greeneville Jann Mirkov responded that she encourages anyone with ideas for the downtown area to join the Main Street: Greeneville effort.
"Roll up your sleeves and get this going," she said.
She encouraged Clark to join Main Street on trips to other downtowns to learn what has worked there.
She said her hope is to bring people with similar interests together to find ways to make their ideas realities.
"We can't rely on one developer or builder to do it all," she said.
Greene County Partnership president and CEO Tom Ferguson added to the discussion what the Partnership's role has been in bringing industry to the town.
He said that the downtown area is vital to attracting industry. He said that, for example, the General Morgan Inn is one place the Partnership takes industry leaders thinking of locating in Greeneville.
In fact, it was on a visit to the downtown area and the General Morgan Inn that US Nitrogen officials "fell in love with Greeneville," Ferguson said.
The ammonium nitrate plant, involving the largest capital investment in the county's history, was announced in February 2011 and broke ground in February 2012.
"This [downtown revitalization] has to be a high priority," he said.
Clark returned to the microphone to propose that Greeneville look closely at its opportunity to grow the town's cycling opportunities through advertisement and development of mountain biking trails in the county, advertisement of roads ideal for mountain biking, and creating an environment that would draw the cyclists from outside the community.
He cited economic and health benefits for the initiative.
Andy Daniels, who will be the facilitator for a 20/20 action group focusing on downtown revitalization, reminded Clark of Greeneville's Hiking and Biking Club, which regularly goes on biking trips.
Discussion then continued about what the Greeneville City School System is doing to promote health.
Jeannie Woolsey, the Greeneville City School System's Coordinated School Health supervisor, said the school system is looking at ways to promote health in the schools.
The major problem, she said, is that students now do not get as much physical exercise as they need.
She said Greeneville Middle School has recently received a $10,000 grant to enhance its physical education program.
New resident Michelle Harmon then steered the conversation toward mental health and the community's role in providing for individuals suffering from mental health issues.
She said her dream is to partner with Opportunity House, which provides short-term emergency housing for homeless adults and children, to provide additional longer housing as a transitional measure for those returning from mental health treatment centers.
She said she would like to see ways to help Greeneville and Greene County's citizens within Greene County rather than sending them to other communities to receive assistance.
"However, I am just an individual trying to do this," she said. She encouraged anyone else with similar interests to partner with her.
Regarding education-related technology, Beverly Miller with the Greeneville City Schools said that she would love to see the town expand the availability of wireless Internet throughout the community.
She said that the schools are using technology more and more and she would like to see this use extend to the homes of the students.
Jerry Ayers, principal of the Greene Technology Center, highlighted Greene County's need for an adult technical school.
Currently, students have a year to a year-and-a-half wait to attend the technical schools in Elizabethton or Morristown, he said.
A Workforce Education Committee has been working on ways to prepare young people for skilled labor jobs and other opportunities.
"We have to have a trained, skilled workforce," he said.
"In the past we would graduate students and send them on their way," he said. "we need to prepare pathways for them."
He hopes that the Greene Technology Center will soon be able to offer satellite programs to begin to bridge the gap in adult continuing education.
Ayers said that, while many things are still several years away, there are things that can be done in the meantime.
George Banks said he was very appreciative of the town's efforts to plan for the future. However, he said that the strategies are missing an overall vision.
He said Greeneville should decide what it wants to look like five, ten, fifteen years from now and use that as a guide for the strategies.
He called for a creation of a vision statement.
Local businessman and philanthropist Scott Niswonger said that efforts relating to each of the five strategies will need to be coordinated to create a better Greeneville.
He said he would like to see the town utilize the facilities that it already has and those being built.
He echoed Ferguson's early comments regarding attracting business and industry to Greeneville.
He said that Greeneville needs to focus on its manufacturing base and have a plan to attract more business, while also focusing on educating the upcoming workforce.
"Education and career are probably my one hot button right now," he said.
"Kids everywhere are coming in with the wrong skill set, both out of college, but primarily out of high school, where they can't accomplish the task that employers have for them," Niswonger said.
He called for employers to work with, and support, education.
Approximately 75-100 people, including many local business, governmental, and civic leaders, attended the workshop, which lasted about an hour and 45 minutes.
Of the total, 45 signed up to join an action group to work toward the five strategies in the "20/20 Vision."